Remembering Student Practices

Regardless of how a place is set up, the everyday inhabitants of that place generate their own uses. The now classic theorization of this dynamic comes from Michel de Certeau. In The Practice of Every Life (1984), de Certeau characterizes this a dynamic between "strategy" and "tactics." Strategy is a place-making force of those in power. For de Certeau, strategy establishes official places that can be maintained and defended by those who have institutional authority over them. Tactics, however, are the everyday practices of those who inhabit places set up by those in power. These tactics can align with power, but often they resist, contest, or re-signify places of power as places of tactics, where those who do not have the power to control the places they inhabit make space for their own inhabitations, however temporarily.

Sometimes, as is the case with student practices around the Cullen Tower, Monstrance, and Story Tree, the institution appropriates these resistive practices into its own place-making processes, which creates a tension around who owns the practice.

The entries in this theme are about how Southwestern students, past and present, have resisted, contested, or re-signified the places established by the adults in charge of them to create their own authentic practices, and how this process is always entangled in larger cultural dynamics around power. and place.

"Monstrance for a Grey Horse," now known simply as “Monstrance” by students, is a hallmark of any current Southwestern campus tour, and an important cultural touchstone for current student life. All throughout the school year, but especially during exam and holiday seasons, students…
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Though the university has incorporated it into the institution’s recognized traditions, Story Tree remains largely “owned,” used, and perpetuated by the students. The student body originally made the tree their own and continues to remake it as their own by proliferating new practices. Through various offerings and hidden practices, students consistently reinforce this site as a place of…
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